"If the amazing vocal — which conjures up Van Morrison, Tim and Jeff Buckley and somehow, Led Zeppelin — doesn't seduce your spirit, try resisting the alchemy of acoustic guitar, strings and pedal steel." —NPR
"That said, it’s inevitable that Washington DC-based musician Tomás Pagán Motta should be tagged with those Drake dictates, given the sad yet beautiful atmospheric set-ups that express his sentiments in such a stunning manner. Cello, pedal steel and Motta’s desolate vocals color these spectral settings and illuminate the music in the process. Despite any obvious comparisons, Motta is clearly a remarkable talent in his own right, and an artist that will ultimately garner all the attention he deserves on his own." —POPMATTERS
"[The] record blew my mind." —CHRIS MUCKLEY, KEXP
"Stirring and well-crafted songs." —HYPE MACHINE
"Full of energy and emotion."—MAGNET
"Rad...a warm, folksy fusion of twangy acoustic guitar and slick pedal steel, laced with pulse-setting shakers."—WASHINGTON CITY PAPER
"Drawing comparisons to My Morning Jacket, Dawes and Blitzen Trapper, [he is] more than up to the task of joining such names."—AMERICAN SONGWRITER
"Acoustic guitar and vocals are quickly joined by a string arrangements, building toward a shapely, spectacular peak."—KEITH MATHIAS, WAMU BANDWIDTH
"Standout tracks."—GUITAR WORLD
"This album is beautiful and musically rich. Overall, it flows from song to song as easily as water in a riverbed."—ANTHONY KAIA, KUOI
"Refreshingly honest and inquisitive approach. There is warmth and intimacy." —BEATS PER MINUTE
“The eight-song record further spotlights Motta’s fervent vocal work aside from his full band, which is paired with a rich string orchestration and poignant lyrics that bring the album to life.”—DC MUSIC DOWNLOAD
"The gorgeous orchestral arrangements pair perfectly with the song's expressive lyrics and a lush Americana feel that fans of Natalie Prass or Tobias Jesso Jr." —TARYNN LAW, THE405
"Warm and honest."—THE VINYL DISTRICT
"There is an impressively delicate and pretty delivery in these songs that put him in a class similar to The Tallest Man on Earth and Damien Jurado. But what is most outstanding here is [his] ability to write a good lyric. [He] is bringing back the focus on solid lyrics that I've been missing, and maybe that's why I loved this record so much."—SYFFAL
"The eponymous debut of Tomás Pagán Motta is a feat of honest writing, earnest singing and beefy but subtle instrumental arrangements. The eight tracks are tight, yet spacey; poignant and pronounced, yet ethereal and mysterious. With this album, Motta has consciously tackled the idiom of progressive folk head-on, displaying an adept knowledge of the tropes of traditional music while writing within the context of the brazenly esoteric. In so doing, his songs have a crystalline, atmospheric quality that at times chills like a fall breeze, and at others comforts like a quilted blanket.
Unraveling the lyrical complexities of Motta’s songs is a challenge. The singer/songwriter spends most of his eponymous album in a comfortable falsetto, singing in an almost unnatural cry that is silky and never strained. Most of the tunes are arranged with a cryptic, melancholy bent, although the listener never really gets the sense that they are overtly sadness. The lyrical content of the album explores some of the more common aspects of the human experienced, but filtered through a glassy lens: lyrics like “Julie is the symbol / the symbol of human need; yes, indeed” on “I Need A Woman” can initially seem askew and off-putting, but within the context of the album as a whole, they fit perfectly.
There is a sparse instrumentation over the course of the album that serves the colors and styles of the tunes. Only a few instruments accompany the singer/songwriter: an orchestral section with a tastefully light touch, drums playing unorthodox percussive parts, and the swirling tones of pedal steel guitar. Motta himself spends the duration of the album with an acoustic guitar in a variety of beautiful open tunings that suit his vocalizations.
The album particularly soars when the arrangements are stripped down to the singer and his guitar along with those pedal steel strings. Opening track “Up and Away” is a prime example of this, in which Motta’s voice rises and falls along with the bends and pitches of the pedal guitar. It is also a prime example of the cryptic nature of his songwriting, in which the tune casts a spell over its listener and takes them on a sort of journey.
With some albums, the consistent nature of an artist’s writing can lead the overall song cycle to have a tedious or monotonous feeling to them. Not so with Tomás Pagán Motta, in which the consistent themes and similar qualities lend themselves to an overall feeling of cohesion. Here, the song structures are assembled such that there is an ebb and flow; the orchestral strings of “Kin With The Wind” coalesce with the fingerpicking-style guitar and gentle vocals to create a riddle out of the lines “Given the way that I was hardly raised / going away is mad.” Again, it continues the album’s ongoing melancholy theme, but wrapped beneath a mysterious veneer that has to be peered at extensively and from multiple angles – and, once examined carefully enough, the feelings of loneliness give way to feelings of catharsis.
This is a striking album of hyper-personal folk of the finest kind: extremely intimate songs that are transmuted through clever wordplay and layered arrangements that afford a universal accessibility. Given that these songs most certainly were written on and for guitar with little accompaniment, the instruments that do join in are tender and as intimate as the songs themselves. The result is a pastoral, elegant album; eight songs that concisely display the work of a mature artist with a unique way of spinning his tales."—Aaron Teixeira, GLIDE MAGAZINE
CHRISTOPHER MILLER EIGHTGANGSWITCH@GMAIL.COM
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